Sarkozy set for first major showdown with unions
PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy is facing his first major confrontation with France's powerful unions tomorrow as the country braces itself for a major transport strike which is set to paralyse road and rail networks.
France's biggest union, the militant CGT, have warned travellers to expect delays at Paris airports, motorway toll booths and on public transport in more than 20 cities during the strike.
Unions representing workers at the state-owned SNCF rail company, the Paris metro service and power utilities EDF and GDF have called the one-day strike to protest against plans to scrap pension privileges allowing some workers to retire as early as 50. Many other civil servants, plus Air France employees, are also expected to strike.
Unions say that hard-won worker benefits are under attack and have threatened to extend the strike "if no satisfying response is provided" tomorrow.
Mr Sarkozy has said he is prepared to negotiate but will not back down from his campaign pledge to reform the special pension privileges.
His argument - that the benefits must be brought in line with those of other public-sector employees - enjoys wide support in France, with polls showing that 53 per cent of people approve the reform.
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